Sorrento, Italy is full of charm as it sits among lemon and orange groves on the south side of Naples. The little town’s 55-meter cliffs that rise above the sea make for the perfect view for a laid-back holiday. Below are the best sites and activities for anyone lucky enough to visit Sorrento:
Stroll Around the Piazza Tasso
The heart of Sorrento is its busy Piazza Tasso. As the town center, the Piazza Tasso must be every tourist’s first stop as it truly gives you a feel for the town’s culture. The Piazza Tasso is surrounded by little streets that are begging to be explored.
There are tons of opportunities for shopping and plenty of family-owned restaurants where you can enjoy incredible local dishes. Food lovers should make sure to visit a pastry shop as the Piazza Tasso has some of the best confections in all of Italy (the Caprese almond cake is a classic). Local favorite pastry shops include Frankie’s Bar Pizzeria and the Bar Pasticceria Fiorentino.
Visit the Marinas and Take a Ferry to Naples
Few things feel as majestic and peaceful as a ferry ride along Sorrento’s coast. Sorrento’s two harbors, Marina Grande and Marina Piccola extend along the steep cliffside. Marina Grande is typically more interesting for tourists to visit as people can watch more of the local hustle and bustle.
Marina Grande, which counterintuitively is the smaller of the two marinas, has an exciting boardwalk atmosphere as it is lined with seafood restaurants, terraces overlooking the water, and has a view of a small fishing village.
However, as most of the ferries leave out of Marina Piccola, it is recommended you spend your morning in Marina Grande then head to Marina Piccola for your adventure. At Marina Piccola, you’ll find ferries and boat tours to Capri (a 20 minute ride), Naples (a 30 minute ride), and more.
In fact, avid traveler Ryan Gibbs stated, “Sorrento is the ideal base from which to explore the rest of the Amalfi Coast, including Capri, Ischia and Positano. Even attractions like Naples and Pompeii are easily accessed from Sorrento, which is set on the seaside overlooking Mt. Vesuvius and surrounded by citrus trees and charming Southern Italian streets.” The ferries of Sorrento are a perfect way to appreciate the beauty of Sorrento’s coast while also getting to explore new areas.
Visit the Cloister of San Francesco
This monastery dedicated to St. Francis dates back to the early eighth century, and is a powerful piece of Sorrento’s history. When visiting, look for pieces of earlier structures in the building. For example, three of the corner columns were once part of pagan temples.
Other highlights include the monastery’s vine-covered cloister dating back to the late 13th-century. These vines beautifully compliment the building’s two strong, crossed arches of tufa as well as its round arches above octagonal columns.
What makes the Cloister of San Francesco so special is that it has continually adapted with Sorrento as it grows. The same eighth-century walls of the building now host concerts and art exhibits during the summer. Moreover, in the adjoining church, which dates back to the 16th century, there are several Renaissance chapels that are fun to explore.
Tour the Correale di Terranova Museum
The Correale di Terranova Museum has been described as “the most beautiful provincial museum of Italy.” The museum began with fine arts collections from the many houses of the Correale family in Sorrento and Naples. In 1428, the Queen of Naples Giovanna II d’Angiò granted the Correale family, for the services rendered to the Court, land that extended from the first gate of Sorrento to the sea.
Consequently, the Correale family became one of the wealthiest families in Italy. The Correale’s prided themselves on their extensive art collection, especially their in 17th- and 18th-century paintings. Their museum also features European porcelains (including Meissen, Sevres, and Capodimonte), as well as Bohemian and Murano glass.
Relics from the Augustan era, furniture of several periods, and Neapolitan paintings finish off the museum’s extensive art collection. The museum has much of the artwork and paintings displayed in various rooms throughout the house, as opposed to a gallery style, in order to give a sense of what life was like in aristocratic homes. The gardens of the villa are also beautiful and worth a visit.
Stop by the Basilica of Sant’Antonino in Piazza Sant’Antonio
The Basilica of Sant’Antonino is an oratory or chapel that dates back to the ninth century and is dedicated to Sorrento’s patron saint Sant’Antonino (St. Anthony Abbot). The building was then developed into a church in the 11th century. The Roman columns as well as other pieces recycled from earlier buildings are still part of the building today.
The accumulated history in the Basilica of Sant’Antonino is evident upon arrival as the locals cherish this building given that it has been a place for Sorrento’s community to gather for hundreds of years. In fact, in the crypt, there are silver offerings that people used to bring to the Basilica.
The crypt also houses historical paintings that were previously saved from being lost at sea. There is local lore surrounding St. Antonino’s fame for sea rescues as he once saved a Sorrento child who had been swallowed by a whale. Inside the church, you’ll see bones that are believed to be from the same whale. The Basilica is in the Piazza Sant’Antonio, which is a fun and colorful part of Sorrento that is great for shopping and exploring as well.